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Tide and time

Understanding the tides

Tide and time

coast and estuaries

How do tides work?
Tides are drawn up towards the gravitational pull of the sun and also the moon, creating solar tides and lunar tides. As you know the moon rotates around the earth and we perceive the moon as a full moon, half moon, new moon and everything in between. When the moon is seen as a half moon, imagine we are the centre of a compass with the sun at North and the moon at East or West, so the sun is highlighting half of the moon. If the sun is drawing the sea up towards it and the moon is too, then this is when you get neap tides. When the sun remains at the North point and the moon is too, then we see the moon as a new moon as the sun is shining on the far side of the moon. When the sun is at the North point and the moon is at the South point, then we see the moon as a full moon. When it is full or new, then the solar tide and the lunar tide pull the same body of water upwards creating much more tidal movement.

What are spring tides and neap tides?
A spring tide is when the sun and moon pull the same body of water upwards on opposite sides of the earth, creating much higher and lower tides. A neap tide is when the sun is pulling the tides upwards at right angles to the moons lunar tidal pull, therefore creating much less of a difference between high tide and low tide.

Why do I need to know about tides?
There are a few reasons to know about the tides. If you are shrimping, then it's important to know when the tide is on the push, up the shore line over the sand that's warmed by the sun, then this is the ideal time to catch them. If you wish to discover subtidal seaweeds without popping on a wetsuit, then look to see when the lowest spring tides are to uncover them. If you are exploring a new beach and the tide is coming in, you don't want to get cut off so check where the strand line is (where there is a line of seaweed) and if you know what channeled wrack seaweed looks like, this grows in the splash zone, therefore the highest point the sea would come up to. I like to go out kayaking on the estuaries and this is a lovely way to spot marsh samphire, but knowing what the tides are doing is very important so you don't get stuck on a mud flat!

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